Do you know someone who needs assistance because of a crisis, illness, injury or long-term condition? Do you know a caregiver who is stretched to the limit? Using free and super-easy tools on the Web, you can help them by building a “circle of care.”

The drawing "Caregiver Support" by The Animated Woman
The drawing “Caregiver Support” by The Animated Woman

I love this drawing (right) by “The Animated Woman” (called “Caregiver Support,” and shared here with permission). The person in the middle is both caring for the person on the left and being supported by the person on the right. As caregivers we need this kind of support, don’t we? It’s like a chain—the beginning of what is sometimes called a “circle of care.”

An example is when a neighbor of mine, Barbara, was seriously ill with Lyme disease, and her friends and neighbors rallied to help her.  Since Barbara lived alone, one of her friends could have volunteered to be her primary caregiver, but instead a bunch of people got together via the Web to share the care. (“Share the Care™” is also the name of a great book about how to build circles of care!). One of us set up an online calendar for her using a free, secure website, and we took shifts, clicking on the times we were available and the tasks we were willing to do, such as shopping, cooking her dinner, or driving her to the doctor. “Lyme disease left me feeling helpless,” Barbara says. “I was so exhausted. People really came through, bringing me things I needed. I was well cared for and am deeply grateful for all that support.”

You, too, can build this kind of circle of care for anyone who needs assistance—by using free and super-easy tools available on the Web. If you know someone who needs help because of a death in the family or other crisis, an illness, injury or long-term condition, or if you know a caregiver who is stretched to the limit, you might want to give one of these websites a try. If you are a caregiver yourself, and do not have the energy to coordinate help, you can ask a friend or family member to take the lead.

Here are 3 of my favorite, free online tools for caregivers:

meal train jpg smallMeal Train:  I used this calendar myself just this past weekend. A friend was rushed to the ER and will be in the ICU for about a week. In a matter of seconds, his wife became a caregiver (hopefully not for long). Since his wife has been at his side all day in the hospital, a group of us created a calendar on Meal Train to cook dinners and drop them off at their house. The wife doesn’t have to worry about cooking, and will have a healthy dinner waiting for her when she comes home to rest. She has also been bringing these home-cooked meals to the hospital with her so her husband can enjoy something other than hospital food.

If you know someone who needs help primarily with meals—for the short- or long-term—Meal Train might be the best bet. The calendar is secure (only invited members can see it), and once members sign up, they will receive automatic email reminders. Free if you only need one meal a day, Meal Train charges a one-time $10 fee for calendars with more than one meal or other tasks.

Lotsa Helping Hands logoLotsa Helping Hands:   This is the free tool that I used to help Barbara. Similar to Meal Train, Lotsa Helping Hands provides a calendar for a wide range of tasks, including meals, shopping, driving the person to appointments, cleaning, and visiting. The webpage is secure, and you get the same kind of reminders as with Meal Train. If the person you are helping needs more assistance than just meals, I recommend Lotsa Helping Hands.

ecarediary small, croppedeCareDiaryThis is a free and secure online “care diary” for the primary caregiver and those most involved with the person’s care, such as other family members and home health care aides. A color-coded appointment book, the diary can be used to record appointments, home health care visits, meals, times for medications, etc. Anyone who is invited into the “care circle” can update the appointment book. The care diary also includes webpages with patient information, doctor information, emergency contacts, medications, and refill reminder dates. You can allow everyone in your care circle to access this information, or limit access to certain members. I would recommend this tool if your “circle of care” is smaller, mostly family members and aides.

Do you have a favorite website tool or app for caregivers? Please share it with us below.


  1. Donna Thomson

    Hi, We use Tyze Personal Support Networks ( Tyze works for us because we combine family, best friends and medical support personnel in our network (including my son’s GP). It is highly secure (like internet banking) and password protected. It has a ‘vault’ feature where we keep medical records, our wills and end of life directives for our son. It has a mixture of medical/support and purely personal information/engagements etc. along with requests for help for things like transportation to appointments or social events. It’s great. Thank you for sharing this important topic – lots of great ideas here!

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